Mar 14

The Tenth Circuit’s Punt in Kerr v. Hickenlooper Opens the Door for a Torrent of Litigation

In 1992 the people of Colorado voted to amend their Constitution with adoption of a Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR). This was a historic initiative that put the power in the hands of the people to decide for themselves whether to approve new taxes or tax-hikes. While many states have constitutional protections to prevent new or increased taxes—such as California’s requirement of a supermajority vote in the legislature—Colorado’s TABOR was unique in that it made the citizens of the state the final word on new taxes or increased taxes. TABOR therein served as a model that has been implemented through constitutional amendments in other states, and which NFIB has supported as a means of protecting small business owners from new and ingenious taxing schemes. But TABOR is under attack—and this may have profound implications, not only in Colorado but throughout the country.

TABOR’s Legal Challenges

TABOR was upheld as constitutional in the Colorado Supreme Court last year in the face of a lawsuit advanced by educators and the parents of school-aged children who complained that TABOR makes it harder for schools to get necessary funding. NFIB Small Business Legal Center filed in that case to defend the law, and we were pleased to see the Court ultimately affirm the constitutionality of TABOR. But TABOR faces yet another challenge—this time in federal court. Continue reading

Dec 01

Should TABOR be dismantled? No

Voters have right to decide state, local taxes

By John Suthers

Two supporters of Amendment 66 look at projected figures showing the initiative
Two supporters of Amendment 66 look at projected figures showing the initiative’s defeat and the victory of Proposition AA (a tax on recreational marijuana sales). (Ed Andrieski, The Associated Press)

Former Congressman David Skaggs and former state Sen. Mike Feeley have filed a lawsuit contending that it’s a violation of your federal constitutional rights to allow you to vote on whether or not to raise your state and local taxes. Because taxpayers and not legislators have the final say on tax increases, they think we have “too much democracy” in Colorado.

I’m confident the courts will ultimately conclude otherwise.

Reasonable people can and do disagree about the wisdom of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). And many Coloradans, including myself, believe it’s far too easy to amend our state constitution. But there’s nothing unconstitutional about allowing voters to decide important issues, including whether to raise their taxes.

The plaintiffs claim that letting citizens decide whether taxes are raised violates the “Guarantee Clause” of the U.S. Constitution. In the Guarantee Clause, the United States guarantees each state will have a “republican form of government.” It was intended by our founders to suppress any lingering monarchical tendencies in the original states. They wanted to ensure that Virginians couldn’t make George Washington or Thomas Jefferson a king of their commonwealth, even if they wanted to. The constitutional provision was intended to preserve power to the people, not take it from them. Continue reading

Dec 01

Should TABOR be dismantled? Yes

Take back the power to set state fiscal policy

By David Skaggs and Mike Feeley

Two supporters of Amendment 66 look at projected figures showing the initiative
Two supporters of Amendment 66 look at projected figures showing the initiative’s defeat and the victory of Proposition AA (a tax on recreational marijuana sales). (Ed Andrieski, The Associated Press)

When we were new members of the Colorado legislature in the 1980s and ’90s, we hoped colleagues would see the merit in bills we introduced and, of course, approve them. It didn’t take long to realize that fellow legislators would be more skeptical about our ideas — as we would be of theirs.

Our proposals — often drawn from conversations with constituents — were subject to scrutiny in committee hearings, floor debates and endless conversations with all manner of interested parties.

That challenging and sometimes tedious process demonstrated then, as it does now, the wisdom of the Founders in drafting a constitution that requires every state to have a “republican form of government,” a representative democracy.

The Founders recognized that the public interest is best served when complex and controversial issues receive careful review by representatives who have the time, commitment and expertise to hold hearings, take testimony, examine evidence, debate their differences and work out necessary compromises. That is the way a diverse society with often conflicting interests can resolve difficult issues responsibly and respectfully. Continue reading

Nov 28

Colorado voters were saved by TABOR

Earlier this month, you were saved by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

Powerful political interests put Amendment 66, a yearly billion-dollar tax increase, on the Nov. 5 ballot and promoted it as a school-funding measure. Coloradans didn’t buy it. Despite millions spent promoting it, 66 was soundly defeated at the ballot box by almost 2-to-1. News media, pundits and pollsters reported Amendment 66’s defeat, but many lost sight of the only reason Coloradans got to vote on the measure: TABOR.

Coloradans had a powerful voice in this important decision for one reason only: the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. TABOR grants Colorado citizens the right to vote on any tax increase. “Want more money, Mr. Politician? OK, but you must ask us first!” An overwhelming majority of citizens determined that Amendment 66 did not offer the right trade-off between family budgets and government burden. The majority of Colorado voters also proved skeptical that just one more K-12 funding increase would solve the problem this time.

TABOR mandates that, when any Colorado government proposes new taxes or debt, that government must first ask voters’ approval. It is one more check in our American system of checks and balances. Continue reading

Apr 30

HUDSON: THE MATH ISN’T SO SIMPLE

Question: When is a legislative expenditure not a TABOR expenditure? Read on…

4/29/2013
CONTRIBUTING COLUMNIST

Supporters of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) amendment would like Colorado taxpayers to believe it provides a simple braking mechanism on increases in state and local spending. And, for a few years in the mid-‘90s it probably did just that — slow the rate of growth in these governmental budgets. But it didn’t take long for the finaglers (think lobbyists, tax lawyers, JBC members, OSPB staff and the half dozen other legislators who actually understand how the long bill works) to begin constructing TABOR escape hatches for their favored initiatives. At first, these fixes were large and clumsy, like the re-labeling of legislative support for higher education as the Colorado Opportunity Fund.

Colorado residents attending state colleges and universities ostensibly receive a pro-rated share of state appropriations to the Fund in the form of grants that can be applied against their tuition bills. This is a fairly transparent subterfuge, as these dollars never actually pass through a student’s account, but are transferred in bulk to each institution by the state Treasurer. Yet, for TABOR accounting purposes these are no longer general fund moneys. This has allowed several of our larger institutions to qualify as “TABOR enterprises,” since less than 15 percent of their revenues are derived directly from the general fund. Everywhere you look, definitions have been twisted to create TABOR free dollars. Continue reading

Apr 20

Letters: Review TABOR

Posted: Friday, April 19, 2013 12:00 am

I happen to know that in 2007, Denver was able to purchase Ford Crown Victoria police cars for about $15,000 apiece. Today, according to The Denver Post, it costs Denver about $40,000 to purchase and equip a midsize police car. This is just one example of the inflation affecting local government.

The city of Pueblo apparently has reached a crisis point in its ability to fund basic law enforcement, animal control and housing of city prisoners.

 Most Coloradans are aware and approve of TABOR’s provision requiring voter approval of new or increased taxes. Many people are less aware of the internal restrictive mechanisms of TABOR that prohibit full collection of taxes even at those voter-approved tax rates. Last November, Denver voters

overwhelmingly approved a permanent elimination of TABOR from their city’s property tax collection. It is estimated that this action will provide Denver with an additional $40 million or so in revenue annually, without actually raising previously voter-approved tax rates.

In so doing, Denver joined the approximately 85 percent of Colorado municipalities and over 90 percent of school districts that have suspended or eliminated TABOR from their tax collection activities (while preserving

the right of voter approval of taxes). Both Pueblo County and Canon City, among other jurisdictions, have suspended the operation of TABOR in their jurisdictions for a period of years.

I suggest that it is time for the city of Pueblo to analyze whether suspending or eliminating TABOR with respect to its property and/or sales tax collection would provide enough additional revenue to address some of its current urgent needs. If so, I believe that the city should put this matter before the voters. Pueblo should stop being an outlier when its quality of life is at risk.

Norman Bangeman

Pueblo

http://www.chieftain.com/opinion/tell_it_to_the_chieftain/letters-review-tabor/article_d6e60e30-a89f-11e2-af05-0019bb2963f4.html

Dec 13

New II Issue Paper Rebuts Myth that Citizen Review of Laws and Taxes Violates the Republican Form

By Rob Natelson**

If you are exposed to enough politics, sooner or later you’ll hear the old saw that the U.S. is “a republic and not a democracy.” Along with that saying goes the following claim: Allowing voter initiatives and referenda is unconstitutional: If a state lets voters enact laws or veto tax hikes, the state is too democratic to meet the Constitution’s mandate that it have a “republican form of government.”

A new Independence Institute Issue Paper, which I authored, examines those assertions in detail. The Paper shows that both are essentially myths.

The nation’s best-known measure requiring voter approval of most tax hikes is Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), adopted by the voters in 1992. This Issue Paper is published in response to a legal attack on TABOR: A group of government apologists has sued in federal court claiming that by limiting legislative control over fiscal measures, Colorado has violated the U.S. Constitution.

In a nutshell, the new Issue Paper finds:

* The American Founders did not firmly distinguish between a “republic” and a “democracy.” Some used the two words as if they were synonymous. Some adopted the view of Montesquieu that there were two kinds of republics: (1) Those controlled by a few (aristocracies) and (2) those controlled by the many (democracies).

* Dictionaries of the time defined “republic” as merely a popular government, as opposed to a monarchy. One encyclopedia-type dictionary included an article tracking Montesquieu’s definitions. Continue reading

Nov 18

Boulder ignores TABOR with new bag ‘fee’

 By 

As Erica Meltzer explained in the Daily Camera, Boulder staff had recommended a 20-cent “fee” per bag, but some council members “raised concerns about how the city had arrived at the 20-cent fee.”

Not surprisingly, Boulder boasted a study from consultants allegedly justifying even the higher tax. Continue reading

Nov 18

Colorado AG Suthers correct to appeal TABOR decision

By Rob Natelson

Guest Commentary

Attorney General John Suthers is correct to appeal a federal judge’s decision that allows the anti-TABOR lawsuit to continue.

The case arose when a group of government apologists sued in federal court to invalidate Colorado’s 20-year-old Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR). That measure assures that voters have the final say over most state and local tax increases. The plaintiffs won an unexpected victory last month when Judge William J. Martinez found-despite U.S. Supreme Court precedent to the contrary-that most of their claims were “justiciable” (resolvable in court).

The plaintiffs contend that TABOR leaves Colorado without a “fully effective legislature”-a phrase apparently invented for the occasion. This, plaintiffs say, violates Article IV, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution. That provision, known as the Guarantee Clause, guarantees to each state a “Republican Form of Government.”

The plaintiffs’ claim, however, is not well-researched. And the background of the Guarantee Clause reveals it to be absurd. Continue reading

Nov 18

EDITORIAL: TABOR is a Colorado asset

Oct. 31–Critics are using the 20th anniversary of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights to bash the voter-approved constitutional amendment as something devastating to our state. They talk as if government budgets and the economy are one in the same. Fund governments more, and we’re good to go. Fund them less, and it somehow amounts to an economic crisis.

Take, for example, comments in a Monday Gazette news story by Wade Buchanan, president of the nonprofit Bell Policy Center. Buchanan explained how TABOR causes a “ratchet effect.” TABOR limits growth in government revenues and spending with a formula that is based on spending in prior years. When recession strikes, government spending and revenues decrease. When the economy recovers, governments are limited by a formula that ties them to recession-era revenues and spending.

Advocates of less government think it’s a brilliant way of achieving their goal. Politicians and bureaucrats tend to hate the ratchet, as it prevents local governments — in jurisdictions where taxpayers have not voted to opt out of TABOR restrictions — from benefiting from economic recovery. Continue reading